The Books are Opened

Revelation 20

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You have a destiny.
It sounds like a movie or a great novel. I’m not Morpheus encouraging you to take the Red-Pill, or even a Wardrobe beckoning you to take your place upon the throne at Cair Paravel.
We are discussing something much more crucial: eternity. 
 
In Revelation 20, we are witness to two resurrections and therefore, two judgements. While Jesus in Matthew 25 tells us there will only be one judgement, with some sheep and some goats, Revelation expresses the security of the saved by expressing their own resurrection as separate. Instead of being raised and judged all together, all those who fought against the beast and his mark will reign with Christ and live forever, being raised in an earlier better resurrection, free of fear of the second death. Revelation then shows us that there will be those that, no matter what, will stand against God, and will march against the Lamb. God will smite them and Christ will judge them from the great white throne. There are many books opened, but there is one crucial book, the Book of Life. Those whose name is written in the Book will live, those whose name is not written in the book will die. Those whose name is not written in the Book will be like the goats of Matthew 25, who go off to shame and everlasting contempt.
 
A question we may ask ourselves is “which is the most accurate description of the final judgements? Is it all people into sheep and goats (like Matthew 25) or two separate judgements separated by 1000 years (Revelation 20)?” And that is a good question.
 
A good one, but the WRONG one.
 
The question we MUST ask is, “Am I a sheep or a goat? Is my name written in the Book of Life? Will I be raised in the first resurrection?” This is the correct question, because it is also the one we can answer with assurance. 
If you have believed in the name of Jesus, 
if you have fed the hungry, given water to the thirsty, clothed the naked, visited the sick and imprisoned, (Matthew 25)
if you have refused the mark of the beast, the authority of this world, (Revelation 20)
if you fought against the anti-God system of the world by speaking the message of Christ in love, 
THEN you have been promised by God Himself that you will be raised to eternal life. 
 
May you, my brothers and sisters, be among the sheep, raised in the first resurrection, and may you never need to fear the second death.
Jake Ballard

The Parable of the Lost Ring

Luke 15

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It was the beginning of a Louisiana winter when I lost my wedding ring just a couple years into my marriage.  It was a beautiful white gold ring with an inscription of our anniversary on the inside of the band.  It was a perfect reminder of my covenant in every way; however, its faults were it was a little loose when my hands were cold, and of course, it had me for an owner.  My friends and I were readying to play a football game on a Sunday afternoon and I was warming up by tossing the ball with a friend.  In a bit of foreshadowing for the events of the day, my ring slipped off as I caught the ball.  I picked it up off the ground, remarked how cold it was that afternoon, thought about placing my ring inside my pocket but thought it might fall out if it was there.  I put the ring back on my finger, only to lose it at some point in the next couple of hours of our pick-up game.

As we finished playing, my heart immediately sank when I realized it was gone.  I felt a cold sweat build on my forehead, my gut churned, and I held back tears, disappointed that I had lost something so precious.  My friends helped me look for almost an hour without success.  In the muddy, mushy, marshy Louisiana ground, I could see the imprints of our shoes and feet, I could see heaps of crawdad holes, but none of us saw the silvery reflection of my ring buried within the mire and muck.

In Luke Chapter 15, Jesus tells a series of three parables with a similar subject of a possession that has gone missing. In “The Parable of the Lost Sheep”, the master realizes that one of his flock is missing, and leaves behind 99 others to search for the lost one.  In the “Parable of the Lost Coin”, a woman takes account (to tie to our theme from yesterday) to realize she has misplaced a day’s earnings and does the equivalent of turning up couch cushion, investigating under the bed, and sweeping every nook and cranny to uncover it.  In “The Parable of the Lost Son” a father turns his son loose with an inheritance, but is actively looking for his return.  In addition to the same topic, each story ends in a similar resolution: what has been lost has become found and there is great rejoicing.

For me, there are two great takeaways as I ponder the collective meaning of these parables.  The first: to be lost, you have already belonged.  It is true that we each must find the Master in order to be saved, but He is the one who never stops searching.  Our Lord desires that not even a single sheep goes astray and is left without the safety of the shepherd (2 Peter 3:9).  Additionally, my thoughts turn to the Book of Life.  In Revelation 3, we are presented an image that our names are not written into the Book at the transition from “lost” to “saved”, but have already received a place there and are blotted out at the end of a life that is not found in Christ.  We are always His, but like the lost son, we make the decision to be found.

The second takeaway is the wonderful rejoicing that occurs when we turn our lives over and are indeed found.  There is a literal fiesta in the firmament to celebrate our Savior’s joy that we are alive again. No longer do we share the fleeting moments of a mortal life with our Father, but have the hope of an eternity of His presence, living with Him in His kingdom, our intended inheritance instead of passing pleasures. We, too, should echo the heavens and revel in each return.

Unfortunately, the resolution to my own parable of the ring isn’t as joyous as our Jesus’.  I searched for the ring for weeks, beseeched friends I know with metal detectors, offered rewards, but none of these measures ensured the retrieval of my wedding band.  I resigned my search, and my ring is forever lost in the loose Louisiana earth.  Maybe, as I like to imagine, it is the crowning jewel at the bottom at some crawdad family’s hole. With this being said, I can’t help but be thankful that my God has called me his treasure and that he never stops searching for me.  He finds me in my wandering, revealing and moving His will and His way through His words, waiting for my silhouette to again darken the horizon when I have gone astray – a Father who never fails finding those who desire to be found in Him.

-Aaron Winner